I’m a food snob, so it will come as no surprise that I try to avoid chains much like I avoid sick people and crying babies. I cringe at the thought of thousands of containers of “product” distributed to restaurants nationwide, containing identicle crab cakes, egg rolls, frozen cheesecakes.
But sometimes dining at a chain is unavoidable, like at a recent business dinner. The location was negotiated based upon accessibility to the interstate (nearly always a bad sign), and its proximity to all guests.
Don’t get me wrong, I love some chains, like the much maligned Krystals and the simple yet delicious Wendy’s. Fast food chains, however, are a necessity of life, filling a literal void on grueling road trips, providing a consistant product whether you’re in New York City or smalltown USA.
Pappadeaux, and other concept chains, are another story. They thrive on tired themes that appeal to (you guessed it) middle America. LC and I pulled up to the huge stand-alone building, its sprawling deck awaiting warmer weather, decorated with copious neon signs lighting the way to a smorgasbord of Cajun and Creole seafood favorites. At least it’s a theme I like.
Jambalaya, etouffee, and gumbo anchor an extensive menu of every kind of seafood, all available fried, broiled, blackened, steamed, or grilled. Several creative, and caloric, specialties caught my attention, like the Texas redfish, grilled with Maine lobster, avocado, sauteed spinach, and roasted tomatoes in a white wine lemon butter sauce. Another paired grilled jumbo scallops and shrimp with mushroom risotto, spinach, and herb butter. That’s what LC ordered for his entree.
The organizer of the dinner had mentioned martinis and lobster earlier in the day and I was having a hard time steering away from either one, but first, I was intent on having something Cajun. So I talked LC into splitting a bowl of Louisiana style seafood gumbo. We requested hot sauce on the side, fully expecting the soup to be pretty mild. And it was….until we added the hot sauce. But the bowl did contain copious amounts of crab meat, shrimp, and oysters, plus a few chunks of tomato and okra.
Everyone was drinking martinis, mine being the only real one, made with Bombay Sapphire. I ordered my lobster grilled but didn’t care for the mashed red potatoes and broccolini sides that came with it, so I switched them for onion rings and spaghetti squash.
There’s a fine line between under and overcooked lobster, and Pappadeaux unfortunately crossed it. My crustacean was a bit chewy, but had a nice grilled flavor. The stringy texture of the spaghetti squash didn’t appeal and my onion rings never showed up….a blessing in disguise. I was hoping they would offer a comp’d dessert to make up for the snafu….and they did!
LC’s dish was tasty, although there was no hint of New Orleans on the plate. Meanwhile, martinis were being delivered to our table at a furious pace, adding fuel to the boisterous banter.
On cue, our patient server brought out the tray of desserts, each one enough to serve four. I chose the bread pudding, of course. A couple of cheesecakes and a chocolate cake joined the fattening fray. Made with apples and raisins and resting in a pool of creme Anglaise, it was not overly sweet. I was pleased with my selection.
Pappadeaux’ menu states that the seafood is fresh, as in not frozen, as in “swimming yesterday”. Not bad for a chain. I bet the place will be crawling with crawfish and Carnival revelers soon!
5635 Jimmy Carter Blvd. 770-849-0600